Fall turkey hunting is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Nothing is more thrilling than breaking up a large flock of birds before slowly calling them back to the dispersal point and culling the hen of your choice. Or, try calling an entire herd of longbarbs off the roost, or provoking a wily old gobbler to strut around like they do in the spring. You can use these strategies and more in the turkey fall woods, and these are the best states to do it this fall.
1) New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a classic turkey hunting state with a long fall season and plenty of access on public and private land. If you hunt birds with your bow then this is definitely the place to be. Granite State bow hunters can pursue birds for three months, from September 15 to December 15. The state is home to more than 25,000 eastern wild turkeys, and the birds are scattered throughout every county.
A unique aspect of New Hampshire’s hunting culture that benefits both residents and non-resident turkey hunters is the state’s longstanding tradition of liberal land access. According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, “based on long-standing tradition, nearly all land in the state of New Hampshire is open for hunting.” In the fall, New Hampshire turkeys can often be found foraging in stands of mast-producing oak or hickory.
Montana has a long fall turkey season that runs from September through the winter months – and you can catch plenty of birds during this time. A general over-the-counter turkey tag in the Big Sky State is good for a bird of either sex in just about any hunting region in the state, but you can also purchase regional tags that allow hunters to harvest up to 11 additional either- sex birds on a region-by-region basis.
Turkeys in Montana occupy a variety of habitats ranging from wide open savannahs of foothill ponderosa pines to higher stands of aspen and mixed conifers. In fall and winter, birds in riparian areas with lots of agriculture around will often seek food and shelter in agricultural fields. Merriams can be difficult to model in late spring or summer due to their propensity to migrate across the landscape, but these birds have generally settled in late fall and early winter, returning on the same perch night after night.
The Golden State has a relatively short fall turkey season that runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 11 with a daily bag limit of one bird of either sex and an overall cap of two birds per day. season. Wild turkeys are found throughout the state, from private ranch lands to properties owned and controlled by the California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management.
Rio Grandes are the most common subspecies in California, but the state also has stable populations of Merriam, Eastern, and an Eastern Rio Grande hybrid introduced from the Midwest. According to the California Department of Fish and Game, both oak habitat and permanent water sources are present in prime turkey country. There are many public wildlife areas open for fall turkey hunting, including Horseshoe Ranch Wildlife Preserve, Oroville Wildlife Preserve, and Feather River Wildlife Preserve, to name a few.
4) South Dakota
South Dakota may be famous for its pheasants, but the state is also home to thriving flocks of Merriam’s wild turkeys. The Black Hills National Forest in particular, which is found in western South Dakota and contains some 1.2 million acres of forested hills and mountains, is known as excellent habitat for turkeys.
South Dakota’s season runs from November 1 to January 31, but the deadline for the online application process is September 10. So you’ll need to act fast if you want to spot some Black Hills birds this fall. Residents of South Dakota have the right to hunt any game unit in the state during the fall turkey season, but non-residents will have to stick to units west of the state. Missouri River, which fortunately includes the Black Hills.
Read Next: The Definitive Guide to Fall Turkey Hunting
You’d be hard-pressed to find more iconic wild turkey habitats than the forested hills and rolling farmlands of the Show Me State. With its dense stands of hardwoods, clear running waters and tall forested cliffs, the Ozark National Forest region has served as the last great bastion of eastern wild turkey populations in the face of major declines that have nearly made disappear the species at the end of the 1930s.
Today, the entire state of Missouri is home to large populations of Orientals. Although numbers have dwindled somewhat in recent years, Missouri Department of Conservation biologists say there are still plenty of birds left to sustain a fall season. The season runs from October 1 to October 31, and hunters can catch up to two birds of each sex.